The ergonomics push
Some could argue that manufacturers began focusing on ergonomics after work-related injuries such as carpal tunnel become more prevalent these past few decades. Others point out that starting with the Industrial Revolution, businesses have continually pursued new tools, equipment, and methods that keep workers productive longer to get jobs done faster. But the concept of ergonomics existed well before the term was ever coined.
“Ergonomics has always been around, as people inherently have worked to improve their working conditions, thus reducing their workload,” explains Bernard Meegan, program manager with the Technology and Solutions Division of Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar.
Think back to prehistoric times. Early humans created rudimentary devices out of pebbles and bone to make their everyday lives easier. More sophisticated humans later improved those tools to make them simpler to use. That led to making tools and equipment safer and more comfortable for users. It's all ergonomics.
The advent of ergonomics in earthmoving equipment can be traced as far back as the 1970s, with the development of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) ergonomic standards, according to Mark Redden, project engineer with Caterpillar's Operator Environment and Interface Group. SAE is dedicated to advancing mobile engineering worldwide and promoting vehicle safety.
In the early 1990s, Caterpillar formed an ergonomics group in its Research and Development Division. The group includes a dedicated team that conducts ergonomic research and then uses its findings to enhance Caterpillar equipment.
“Caterpillar has matured globally in its understanding of ergonomics, with a real recognition of the positive impact it can have on protecting people and improving value to the customers,” says Meegan.